Salena Godden: Mrs Death Misses Death (4 stars)

Salena Godden: Mrs Death Misses Death

Salena Godden / credit: Tristram Kenton

As activist and poet Salena Godden heads for the Edinburgh International Book Festival we review her debut novel that has death baked into its bones

Death comes for us all and yet many people do their best to avoid talking, or even thinking about it, especially in western cultures. Mrs Death Misses Death – the debut novel from poet, memoirist and activist Salena Godden – ensures that we are allowed no such timidity. Death is at the very heart of this swooping, heartfelt and playful book, and she is a force to be reckoned with. Yes, death is a woman in Godden's domain.

The novel begins with a disclaimer, prepping the reader for some experiments with form to follow. We are then introduced to Wolf, a young man with a troubled past and an even more difficult present, a predicament caused in no small part by the fact that Mrs Death is speaking to him. How to cope with the poetry, laments and tragedies that Mrs Death shares with him? To write about them, of course. But could it be that documenting her meditations on mortality are set to put his own life at risk? Wolf is an endearing, occasionally infuriating character, but it is Mrs Death who truly charms the reader.

A book that deals with our impermanence with a great dash of levity, as well as plenty of compassion, Mrs Death Misses Death is both fierce and kind. Godden treats us to a story that gathers shiny trinkets from a number of lives, reminding us that the best way to fight back against an uncaring world is to make sure we live our own to the fullest.

Salena Godden will be appearing in an online and in-person event, Edinburgh College Of Art, Tuesday 17 August, 4pm; Pay What You Can online, £14 (£12) in-person.

Salena Godden: Bringing Death to Life

  • 4 stars

What if Death was not a faceless skeleton with a cloak and a scythe, but a working-class Black woman who shapeshifts and who has spent the whole of eternity doing her work unseen? Worn out and exhausted, Death wishes to unburden herself of the stories of loss she has helped to write and begins to record her memoirs with…